c.2019 New York Times News Service
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government hit back Saturday at United Nations rights experts seeking an international investigation into the unlawful killings during President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, calling the push “an outrageous interference” on the country’s sovereignty.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo accused the 11 special rapporteurs of “peddling a biased and absolutely false recital of facts,” and said that the Southeast Asian country was an independent democracy with a working judiciary.
“Let the enemies of the state and their supporters from foreign soil be forewarned that no amount of destructive narratives against this government will envelope it with the appearance of pretended truth to hoodwink the Filipino people in embracing it,” Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo argued that Duterte’s war on drugs, which the government says has killed more than 5,000 people suspected of being addicts and dealers during the past three years, was based on the “primary duty of the state” to protect its citizens. The police operate on strict protocols, he said.
Rights groups have placed the number of deaths at 20,000 to 30,000.
On Friday, the special rapporteurs called for an investigation into the killings, noting that there had been a “staggering number” of unsolved and unlawful deaths, along with official attacks on rights defenders in the country. They said the inquiry should begin before the Human Rights Council convenes a new session this month.
“There are now thousands of grieving families in the Philippines,” the United Nations experts said. “We call on the international community to do everything possible to ensure there will be no more.”
Former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in 2016 that the Philippine authorities should investigate Duterte for murder, citing the president’s boasts that he had personally killed criminal suspects. In response, the president called al-Hussein an “idiot” and other obscene terms.
Two cases of mass murder have already been filed against Duterte with the International Criminal Court.
The call by the U.N. experts “smacks of unpardonable intrusion on our sovereignty,” Panelo said, adding that the report’s arguments appeared to have been based on statements from groups that oppose Duterte.